book related, Children's books

Book Conference 2022!

Four years ago now I wrote a post about my weekend at the Bristol Book Conference. We should have been back there in 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020 so it’s been four years before my second weekend of fun and frolics with other aficionados of Twentieth Century Books for Girls. As you saw yesterday I came home with a big old pile of books, but what else did we get up to?

Well the theme this time was Eccentrics, Oddballs and Misfits and as there are plenty of those in these books there was plenty to talk about! Gum from Ballet Shoes got a mention, and we had a whole talk on the basically insane Oeuvre of Rita Coutts – it sounded so mad I bought myself one to see for myself!

As you know my gateway books to the genre were The Chalet School, Drina and Sadlers Wells – which were the series that were still in print in paperback when I was about the right age. So one of the joys for me is discovering new to me authors that were already collectible hardbacks when I was little.

But also it’s talking to the people. There are not many people that I can make jokes about singing people better out of comas with, but this weekend there were nearly 100 of them! And they all want to talk to you about their favourite book or tell you why you’re wrong to thing that Professor Richardson (who single handed builds his own rocket to try to fly to the moon) is the most eccentric character in the genre…

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend -even if my team didn’t win the quiz – and we’ve already made some suggestions for possible talks in 2024. Oh and I’ve got a new WhatsApp group of friends to chat to. Delightful.

book related, books

Books in the wild: Waterstones Birmingham

Firstly, I’m sure the Birmingham Waterstones used to be in a charming old building – that used to be a bank or something like that. But the building I thought it was is now an Apple store and so I’m doubting myself. Anyway the current Waterstones is near the Bullring and I had a little wander on Friday to see what they’re promoting and displaying.

Let’s start with the big display as you come in – which has Jessie Burtons – old and new, the new Juno Dawson book , the Richard Coles that I wrote about the other week and the latest book in a thriller series that is clearly going to be too scary and violent for me!

On the other side, we’ve got the non-fiction selections – I haven’t read any of them, but I’ve got The Premonitions Bureau on the Kindle, as I thought it might appeal to the part of me that enjoyed The Haunting of Alma Fielding the other year. Then there’s Clubland, which I hadn’t heard of, but which is a history of working men’s clubs in the UK and which sounds interesting, although my to read pile is so huge that I can wait for it! I hadn’t come across The Escape Artist either, but that also sounds interesting- about the first Jewish man to break out of Auschwitz and tried to warn the world about what was going on there. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before is a mental health toolkit type book which again sounds interesting and Cry of the Kalahari is presumably there because the film of Where the Crawdad’s Sing has just come out and it’s by Delia Owens and her husband about their life in Africa (and which there have been a number of articles about recently).

A number of books I have written about previously have now made it to the buy one get one half price table – notably Fatal Crossing and The Man Who Died Twice. I’m also somewhat intrigued by the Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series – A Three Dog Problem is the second one, but I’ve been looking out for the first at the library.

The non fiction table was where I spotted a few more things – I’ve got the hardback version of Judith Mackrell‘s Going With The Boys, which I really need to get to because I’ve enjoyed her other group biographies (hence my purchase!). I hadn’t heard of Oh What A Lovely Century before – but Roderic Fenwick Owen’s edited Diaries sound right up my street – born in 1921, he went to Eton and Oxford, survived the Second World War and then became a travel writer. The blurb promises that he experienced Nazi Germany and the Pentagon during the Cold War and met people like Jackson Pollack and Sean Connery. He was also attracted to men at a time when it was still illegal in many places. The few pages I read were interesting enough that I nearly bought it – except that it’s a chunky old thing and I didn’t want to have to carry it around in my handback getting battered for the rest of the day. I will be watching out for it.

And there we are – a rare bookshop trip where I didn’t buy anything – but still managed to add a few more books to the list…

book adjacent, book related

Book adjacent: Magpie Murders

Something a bit different today – and I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novel Magpie Murders. I read the book back when it first came out and I really enjoyed it – but had no idea how they would manage to turn it into a TV series, so I got myself a Britbox subscription especially to watch it!

In case you haven’t read the book, a reminder of the plot: Susan Ryeland has been editing the Atticus Pünd novels for years. The series’s author, Alan Conway is not her favourite person, but she puts up with him because the series has been incredibly popular with fans of the Queens of Crime. But when she reads the latest manuscript, not only is the end missing, but she’s convinced that Conway has hidden another story within his new novel.

Now, what the book blurb doesn’t tell you, but the TV trailer does, is that Alan Conway ends up dead and that as she searches for the missing chapter, she’s also trying to figure out who killed him. I had no clue how they were going to make this work on screen because of the book-within-a-book nature of the story but it really clicks – with cast doubling their roles and different filters on the camera to make it even easier to tell the two apart – as well as the different costumes for the different time periods. I was a bit sceptical about whether the adaptation really needed six parts but it turns out that it sort of did – because there is a lot of plot with two parallel mysteries to a solve and not a lot to cut. Anthony Horowitz has adapted this himself from his novel -and it really works. As you can see from the trailer, a lot of the cast play two roles – the real people who knew Alan and their fictional equivalents in the book.

There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the performances are great. Lesley Manville makes a great Susan – tenacious about trying to find the missing chapter of the book, but guarded and prickly about her personal life. I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer, so I’m not sure I’d seen Conleth Hill in anything before I saw him in Holding, and then here he is again in this turning in another great – but very different – performance. I really hope they do the second in the series, The Moonflower Murders, and I also really hope that Horowitz writes a third. He does have two meta-murder mystery series though, and he seems to be doing more with the Hawthorne books – which is even more meta as a fictional version of Horowitz is in that one. I really can’t imagine how they would do a TV version of that. But I said that with the Atticus Pund series, so what do I know! There is a fourth Hawthorne book coming this summer which I’m already looking forward to reading.

As I said at the top, this one is on Britbox, which you can get direct from them or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. You get a seven days free trial, and there are a couple of other Britbox originals that I fancy having a look at, so I’ve gone beyond the trial for now!


book related

The return of In Person book events

I’ve suddenly started to get a slew of emails through again for in person book events! I’m so excited. I’ve met some wonderful friends through author fandoms – and at author events of various kinds. And one of the last events that I went to before the End of the Beforetimes (although I didn’t know it then!) was Ben Aaronovitch at Foyles and I can’t wait to hear some people talking about their books again!

And Ben is doing another event there for the next Rivers of London book too – I’ve already got a copy of the book preordered, but I haven’t ruled out going to this on April 11th as well! He’s also doing a bunch of events around the country – including at my old favourite indie cinema – City Screen in my beloved York.

Not strictly a book – but being held at the British Library is HistFest. I did the online version of this last year and it was really good. You can also attend online this year and you can either book a weekend or day pass or the sessions individually. I’m really interested in The House of Dudley – which is tied into a new book – and also The City of Tears about the St Bartholomew’s day massacre, which I studied at uni.

I do quite like the dual in person and online events that we’re seeing now – I’ve got my eye on the online stream for the VE Schwab event that Waterstones have happening on Friday, but Friday nights are a little tricky for me. Waterstones also have an in person only event with Natasha Solomons next week which is a bit tempting if I can make my office schedule work for it.

There are a couple of local (to me) indies who do events too – but as they require a little bit of extra planning as well as some petrol – I haven’t got anything booked in yet. And of course the next thing I’m hoping for is there to be another Sarah MacLean meet up this summer…